The (Un) Enthusiastic Mom

Photo Courtesy: Berkeley.edu

Ten years ago I had a quote on my cork board in my home office. It read: “Be the most positive and enthusiastic person you know.” One of my friends spotted it one day and laughed, “That’s you alright.” At the time, I was also reading the book, The Power of a Positive Mom. 

I was the annoying sort back then – happy in the early mornings and purposefully positive, even with difficult people. I was high energy, outside each day doing something active with my kids (after the house was organized and a few loads of laundry were done). We painted, drew on sidewalks, were regulars at the library, created homemade solar systems, and hung the entire Milky Way Galaxy from our dining room ceiling. We played hard, laughed often and never missed “free admission dates” at local museums. Whenever I’d discuss my daily explorations with other Moms who either worked part time like me, or didn’t work outside the home, they’d quip, “I can’t even get into the shower by 9am. How are you accomplishing so much with your kids?!”

The answer? Enthusiasm. Or, should I say, “Enthusiasm!!!” I viewed raising my children as my primary career and I was fervent about being attentive and engaged.  Fortunately, my “job” was also my greatest “joy”. For the most part, being positive throughout those days was easy. Even when the kids were defiant, they were adorable, instantly remorseful, and all was forgotten within minutes.

The years flew by, family life naturally altered and I’ve slipped into an ordered existence, full of routine, raising teenagers. I often feel what I feared most as a young Mom: unenthusiastic.

Let’s face it: defiance at 16 is not adorable, nor is it followed by instant remorse. Smart-aleck comments make it very difficult to feel “joy” in the “job”. Doing three loads of laundry before 8am does not give me the same satisfaction it did when the kids were in grade school. Homework has sadly replaced board game time, and library visits have been traded for sports practices. Even though I’m still vigilant about family dinner time, I’m not “enthusiastic” while preparing it!

I’m in the season where inappropriate teachers, disturbing school assemblies, rude people, and the world condition at large have sapped my enthusiasm. Teenage nonsense just adds to the already zapped pot of zeal. This waning enthusiasm was on my mind recently, and guilt was rising up about my lack of “yeeee haaawww” at 6:15am when I’m making my 3,289th peanut butter and jelly sandwich for school lunches. No longer the “joyful annoying sort” in the early mornings, I’m tired while searching for the last can of tuna in the pantry. I am also admittedly maybe a little… bored of the routine.

Nonetheless, I can’t stop running this life and parenting race without at least trying to be upbeat. Consequently, being aware of my recent lack-of-enthusiasm has prompted me to once again, purposefully watch for the daily joys that used to somehow just pop out at me. This is not only good practice while raising teenagers, but I will also need to muster up some gusto as I venture into the college years ahead. Who can re-invent the next part of their life with a sour attitude, worn out from years past?

This quote got me thinking: EnthusiasmQuoteI couldn’t help but relate it to parenting: if my kids are going to be great (whatever that will mean for them individually), I need to maintain enthusiasm while raising them (no self-imposed pressure here). If my family dynamic is going to be great (loving, fun, accepting), then, it needs to start with me. If I’m not enthusiastic about my responsibilities during this season, how can I expect my kids to bring joy into their work…into their relationships? They mirror me.  

Gosh, doesn’t it always come down to being a role model for them? Again, no pressure ;-).

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The Ducks Will Follow

Walking through my favorite local park, I stopped to watch a Mama duck cross my path with her four offspring. The waddling brood weren’t babies and they weren’t fully grown, so I immediately identified them as “teenage” ducks.

Three of them followed the Mama in a perfectly straight line, stopping when she stopped, moving forward when she did. The more independent fourth child stayed close, but tended to stop more frequently, picking at the grass. Sensing his absence, Mama would turn her neck around, waiting until 4th duck got moving again.

Unlike the Mama duck with six loud babies in the nearby pond, these 4 teenagers were quiet. Even the one who tended to wander momentarily still quietly followed. I couldn’t help but observe how obedient they all were and how they mimicked her every move. When she pulled at the grass, they pulled at the grass. When she stared at independent #4, they stared at their sibling. When she waddled forward, they did too.

Ducks and humans are too vastly different to compare, but I did it anyway that morning and two things came to mind:

     1)There were dogs and other threats throughout the park, but the teenage ducks’ obedience kept them safe. I couldn’t help but relate their actions to our teenagers’ (and our own) relationship with God. Instead of viewing the bible as full of restricting rules, we need to remind ourselves that quiet obedience keeps us safe and on the proper path.

2) Lord help us,our kids usually act and behave how we act and behave! This brought to mind a story I read a long time ago in a Beth Moore bible study (see below). It was in my workbook at the time, and it was so powerful, I cut it out and hung it in my home office. I read it every now and then, and I’m propelled into – once again – making renewed mental commitments toward being a much better example for my children.

I have a tendency to believe that peers, society, culture, television, Instagram, and The Vine all deeply influence my teenagers. The following story reminds me of how powerful I am as Mama Duck. It forces me to assess how I’m acting and behaving in my nest.

Although I read the following excerpt in one of my Beth Moore studies, the story is actually written by Gilda Radner in her book, It’s Always Something.

“When I was little, my nurse Dibby’s cousin had a dog, just a mutt, and the dog was pregnant. I don’t know how long dogs are pregnant, but she was due to have her puppies in about a week. She was out in the yard one day and got in the way of the lawn mower and her two hind legs got cut off. They rushed her to the vet and he said, ‘I can sew her up, or you can put her to sleep if you want, but the puppies are okay. She’ll be able to deliver the puppies.’ Dibby’s cousin said, ‘Keep her alive.’ So the vet sewed up her backside, and over the next week the dog learned to walk. She didn’t spend any time worrying. She just learned to walk by taking two steps in the front and flipping up her backside, and then taking two steps and flipping up her backside again. She gave birth to six little puppies, all in perfect health. She nursed them and then weaned them. And when they learned to walk, they all walked like her.”